Dimensions and Diagrams for a Slalom Waterski Course

Water Skiing
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Water-skiing slalom-style, with one ski, is a favorite activity of many water skiers once they have mastered the novice two-ski style. For experienced and devoted skiers, though, the sport can become a competitive one, with both amateur and professional competitions found all over the world.  

In a competitive slalom waterskiing, a boat tows the skier through a set of buoys arranged to create six turns (three to each side) arranged in a zigzag pattern.

Additional pairs of buoys down the center of the course guide the boat. The skiers make multiple passes through the course, with the boat gradually increasing speed to increase the difficulty. The skier's score is determined by how many buoys are cleared, and by the speed of the boat and length of the rope. In some competitions, top skiers may begin their runs at the top sanctioned speed (for men, 36 mph, 58 kph; for women, 34 mph, 55 kph), increasing their difficulty level by shortening the tow rope. 

If  you are interested in establishing your own slalom waterski course and seek guidance, there are a number of resources you can use

U.S. Water Ski Standards

Slalom courses can be laid out in a variety of ways with varying numbers of buoys, but for official competitions, the U.S. Water Ski Organization requires a course using 26 buoys, set out at the following dimensions: 

   Description  Dimension   Range
  Total Length  849' 8 7/8"  847' 7 38" to  851' 10 3/8"  
  Starting Gate to Ball 1  88' 7"  88' 1 5/8" to 89' 1/4"
  Ball 1 to Ball 2 Gates  134' 6 1/8"  133' 10 1/8" to 135' 2 1/4"
  Center of Entrance Gate to Ball 1  96' 3 3/8"  95' 9 5/8" to 96' 9 1/8"
  Ball 2 to Ball 3 Diagonal  154' 2 3/4"  153" 5 3/8" to 155' 1/8"
  Entrance Gate, Center of Course to Ball 4    4' 1 1/4"  3' 10 3/4" to  4' 3 3/4"
  Center Line of Course to Turn Ball  37' 8 3/4"  37' 4 1/4" to 38' 1 3/8"
  Center Line of Course to Boat Gates  3' 9 1/4"  3' 4 3/4" to 4' 1 3/4"
  55 Meter Buoys  180' 5 3/8"  179' 6 1/2" to 181' 4 1/4"


Anchoring Buoys

Floating waterski buoys are easy to find, available at both online retailers and ski shops. Laying out and anchoring buoys can be a complicated affair if you aspire to qualify as an officially sanctioned competition requiring specialized sub-buoys, tension bands, and anchors. Waterskiing officials will need to inspect your site and installation to sanction it for competition. But for unofficial competitions or training courses, you can use ordinary buoys, nylon rope, and cement blocks or metal weights as anchors. Such buoys are easily removed once your unofficial competition or training sessions are done. 

Make sure to check with local authorities on any restrictions for laying out a course or materials allowable for buoys and anchors. There may be permits required, as well as time limits and regulations for removing the buoys when the permit period is over.